Dec 10, 2014

Bollywood theme cake with Paisley decorations and Gold beads!


I’m delighted to share this Bollywood Themed Cake with Paisley decorations and Gold beads that I made for a friend’s surprise party that she was throwing for her husband’s 40th birthday. The party theme was Bollywood....how fun! 
Her only requirement was a colorful and grand looking tiered cake with a disco ball as topper.
As it was for her husband, I wanted the cake colors to be more neutral, yet full of color with all the bollywood bling and decided to go with an Orange and Blue color combo, with accents of Gold ;-)

 

The top tier is a rich and buttery Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Buttercream filling, coated in Dark chocolate Ganache and covered in Royal Blue colored Marshmallow Fondant.

The bottom tier is a luscious Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream filling, coated in Dark chocolate Ganache and covered in Orange colored Marshmallow Fondant.

Each paisley is hand cutout, sprayed mildly with edible gold spray for a shine and decorated with edible gold beads. The smaller paisley cutouts were painted with edible gold and orange luster dust alternatively. The decoration took a lot of time, imagine sticking each gold bead one by one around the entire cutouts and around the border of the cake! But the end result was worth it.



For the top-tier I went with a quilted design decorated with edible gold beads with a bead impression lace mat border shaded gold. 



The inspiration for the name plaque was this Bollywood banner (pic from google images)



I made star shaped impressions to give the idea that the husband, ‘Rajeev’, is the star of the party! :-)


The Disco Ball topper is non-edible. I used a Styrofoam ball which was sprayed in gold color and stuck gold colored sequins all around. I placed it on top of a smaller round Styrofoam block which I wrapped around with a pretty Red ribbon with golden bead piping. 



When I went to the party hall to setup the cake, I was spell bound with the decorations. The Bollywood theme just screamed out with the colorful decorations ! It was just spectacular and a sight to behold....



I love the way light bounced off the gold sequins giving it a sparkly effect.


Look at the beautiful table decoration with the hidden lights and all....Loved it!


Making this cake was such a pleasure...although there were a few hiccups while decorating the cake, it was all resolved quickly and perfectly and I was very satisfied with the end result. It looked elegant and neat and the colors were perfect for the birthday ;-) 

I cannot end this post with thanking my friends for giving me this opportunity and trusting me with the cake for their beautiful surprise party and also to my husband who stayed up with me all the time while making this cake. Without him this cake wouldn't have been possible!

Your comments and feedback are my inspiration, so please don't forget to share your thoughts on this cake :-) Muah!

-Manju

Dec 8, 2014

Vanilla Cupcakes with mixed Berry compote filling


I made these cupcakes last month and even wrote up a post for posting them, but got caught up with tons of other things that it got delayed so long. Anyway last month, when I made these it had been a while since I  had baked anything at all. Finally I decided to just bake something very simple and ended up baking these simple vanilla cupcakes. These are my all time favorite, they are moist with a tender crumb and tastes great!

Look at these golden beauties, aren't they just lovely! They were still slightly warm when we ate them as we couldn't wait any longer and it was really good. After a while, I kept staring at my plain vanilla cupcakes, which btw I baked in colorful liners, the green one on special request by my son (he loves the color green).



I had some mixed berry compote in the fridge which I had made to make use of a leftover bag of mixed berries that was stashed away and literally forgotten in my freezer. And that's when the light bulb went on, why not make a filling of the yumm berry compote for these cupcakes. It sounded very good to me and I went ahead with it.

A fruit compote is almost a jam like sauce made with fresh/frozen fruit, some sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch (as thickner). It can be used as a filling for cakes/cupcakes, on top of pancakes/waffles, as a spread for bread/chapathi, as a topping for icecream sundaes and plenty more :-) It's quick to make and totally yumm.



Then I went ahead and scooped out tiny rounds from the centre of each cupcake using my melon baller. Go ahead, eat those little balls that you scooped out, I won't tell anyone ;-)



Fill each little hole with a good tsp full of berry compote...


Ta-Da...don't they look good!

 

I would have just left them at that. But I wanted them to look more pretty so I went and made a small batch of vanilla buttercream and used that to make a flower like pattern for the cupcakes and they looked delightful ;-) 





Moist Vanilla Cupcakes
Yields- 15-16 cupcakes

You’ll Need:
1 ¼  cups cake flour
1 ¼  tsp baking powder
½  tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2 eggs
¾  cup sugar
1 ½  tsp pure vanilla extract
½  cup oil (vegetable, canola or extra light olive oil)
½  cup buttermilk

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. In a medium bowl, add cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir together with whisk, and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, add eggs and beat 10-20 seconds.  Add sugar and continue to beat on medium speed about 30 seconds.  Add vanilla and oil and beat.
4. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add about half of the flour mixture.  Add half of the milk, then the rest of the flour and the rest of the milk.  Beat until just combined.  Scrap down the side of the bowl.
5. The batter will be thin.   Pour batter into a muffin pan prepared with paper liners.  Fill liners about 2/3 full.
6. Bake cupcakes in pre-heated oven for 12-14 minutes.
7. Cool in pan 1-2 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan (carefully) and finish cooling on a wire rack.

Tips:
Homemade buttermilk
1/2 cup Buttermilk =  1/2 cup milk + 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice - add acid to the milk then set aside for 5 minutes before using
Recipe source: Glorious Treats



Mixed Berry Compote

You’ll Need
1 cup frozen mixed berries (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, strawberry)
½ cup sugar
½ Tblsp lemon juice
3 tsp Cornstarch (use as needed)

Directions:
1. In a pan add the mixed berries and sugar and keep the heat on medium and wait until the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts bubbling.
2. Add the lemon juice and enough cornstarch to make a thick jam-like sauce. Once its reached desired consistency turn off the heat.


The Berry compote is slightly tart yet sweet and very fruity and goes very well with the Vanilla Cupcakes. I bet the compote pairs well well with chocolate cupcakes too, gotta try that combo sometime.
Here's all the berry goodness with each bite...yumm!!



I made a fun gif image of the cupcakes getting ready ;-).... I love gif images, even more than videos !


Take care then...enjoy! Tons of recipes and cakes left to share....I hope to share them all before end of year ;-P

-Manju

Nov 4, 2014

Kerala style Egg Stew


Hope you all had a fun Diwali and Halloween and now waiting for Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year...well lots to look forward to :-) But this cold weather has numbed my thoughts in the blogging arena. I have tons of recipe all half-written and some posts drafted away with only pictures and I just donno when I'll ever come to posting them. I just can't think of anything to write :-) Apparently for me the easiest part is writing the recipe, atleast that's something. I will share everything all in good time, until then let's just enjoy this creamy Egg stew.

Kerala style stew made with coconut milk is best served with soft spongy Appams. We also enjoy these with Kallapam, plain white/brown Bread or even with Idiappam....ok! my mouth is watering now. Who wants to make me any of these right now...with some stew ofcourse? :-)



I've heard that many people find it difficult to make a perfect hard boiled egg. I've never faced that situation (call it luck or whatever), but my mom taught me a  technique and ever since I've never ever had failed hard-boiled eggs. They get boiled perfectly and are never over-boiled or rubbery. So let's get to the technique for making perfect hard boiled eggs and to the recipe for this awesome Egg stew.

Don't get scared seeing the list of ingredients, its not much but all this together makes the perfect stew and it's just worth it.


Egg Stew with Coconut Milk

You’ll Need
4-5 Hard boiled eggs
1 Carrot (cubed)
1 Potato (cubed)
½ cup Green Peas
1 large Onion (diced)
2 Green chillies (slit lengthwise)
1 Tblsp Ginger (grated or thinly sliced)
1 Tblsp Garlic (grated or thinly sliced)
1 Cinnamon stick
2 Green cardamom
2 Cloves
1 tsp Black peppercorns
2 dry Red Chillies (optional)
1 sprig Curry Leaves (5-8 leaves)
½ tsp Garam masala
½ tsp Corriander powder
2 cups Canned Coconut Milk
1 Tblsp Oil

Directions
How to Hard-boil Eggs
1. Fill a saucepan with cold water and immerse the eggs into the water. The water should be above the level of the eggs.
2. Keep over high flame/heat and bring the water to a boil. When the water comes to a rolling boil, turn off the heat, cover the saucepan with a lid and let the eggs rest for 10mins.
3. After 10 mins drain away the water and gently peel away the egg shell. Keep aside the Hard-boiled eggs.

To prepare Egg stew
1. Heat oil in a pan and sauté the whole spices until fragrant (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and black pepper, dry red chillies)
2. Add the curry leaves, ginger, garlic, green chillies and onions and sauté until onions are soft.
3. Add potato, carrots, green peas along with 1 cup coconut milk and cook until potato is soft.
4. Turn the heat to low and mix the spice powders (garam masala and coriander powder) with remaining 1 cup coconut milk and add it to the stew.
5. Add the boiled eggs (slit in half if preferred) to the stew and cook on low heat for 5 mins.
Serve it yumm and hot with some Appam or Kallappam or Bread!!!

Notes:
1. I like to add all these veggies when I make stew, you could just make this egg stew with just eggs and potatoes if you like, but I love the added color.
2. Do not brown the onions, just saute until soft and translucent.




I love anything that's cooked in coconut milk and curry leaves, the aroma, the flavor ....everything....yumm. Appam with Egg stew is a common breakfast dish at my home specially over weekends. The stew isn'y overly spicy yet has a lot of flavor. Even lilttle kids enjoy it and yes Lil'Appu eats it with relish! 

Anyways as we are discussing stew today, let me share, we had a Halloween Cook-Off at our office which was a potluck and competition, and I took my favorite Chicken Stew and guess what, I came second in the non-traditional food category...yaaay. Happy Dance!!

-Manju


Oct 21, 2014

Ring Murukku


Indian snacks are always a class apart. And Diwali is the perfect time to make a whole lot of sweet and savoury snacks to share with family and friends. I love trying something new each year. In my previous post I had shared my favorite Chakli recipe made with whole-wheat flour. I’m sharing another quick and simple snack recipe perfect for Diwali and one that you can make even at the last moment, Ring Murukku or murukku with a hole ;-)



These Ring shaped crunchy snacks are to die for.  I absolutely love them and have always until now just bought them from the snack section at the Indian store. With the Diwali fever doing it’s rounds I felt I should try making this at home atleast once and I was very pleased with the results. They turned out super crispy and crunchy. I wanted a slightly savory aka spicy snack so I added a little extra red chilli powder than the recipe called for to the dough and the ring murkku had a good bit of heat and was perfect and just my taste.


They are so easy to make, you don’t need any special equipment, just shape them into small rings and fry until golden brown.


I did not take a lot of step-wise pics but have shared a few that I managed to click. It's not a fun task to take pics while handling flour and oil ;-)

Ring Murukku

You’ll Need
1 cup Rice flour
1 Tblsp Urad dal flour/Moong dal flour  
1 tsp Red chilli powder  
1 Tblsp Sesame seeds     
1/8 tsp Asafoetida            
1 tsp Jeera         
1 cup water 
1 Tblsp Butter     
Salt - as needed
Oil - for deep frying

Directions
1. Make urad dal/moong dal flour – roast a handful of urad dal/moong dal  until mild brown and fragrant, powder it and sieve it and keep aside 1 Tblsp of the powder.

2. Boil 1 cup of water in a non-stick vessel or any vessel. Add butter and salt to the boiling water and then Rice flour and 1 Tblsp Urad dal flour, mix well. Immediately switch off the flame, cover and let the dough cool down. If too sticky then add some more flour. When the dough becomes cool enough to handle, add jeera, red chilli powder, sesame seeds and knead to form a dough.
3. Pinch out small round balls of dough of equal size and roll them into a thin rope and join the ends of the rope to form a ring.



4. Deep fry few per batch in hot oil. While one batch is getting cooked, you can make the next batch. Or make all the rings together and fry little by little. Fry in high flame until the rings are golden brown, but do not let oil fume.



This is a perfect Tea-time snack and is best eaten the day it is made. But if stored in a good air-tight container you can enjoy them for couple more days. So enjoy snacking and have a fun filled and Happy Diwali!

-Manju

Oct 19, 2014

Whole-wheat Chakli / Murukku


It’s Diwali season again, the Festival of Lights! People are all busy cleaning up their homes, buying pretty new clothes and lots of fire-crackers and diyas. Many even draw beautiful Rangoli in front of their homes surrounded by lamps of light (diya). It’s a fun festival, colorful, bright and noisy with all the fire-crackers bursting away….and that’s just how we like to celebrate Diwali.
Oh! and the best part…of course the goodies. So many lovely sweets and snacks are prepared and shared and the preparation starts from few weeks before the big day. Some prefer to just buy the snacks, others prepare them at home themselves…either way it’s a lot of fun.

I have celebrated Diwali in our own small ways after our marriage. I still remember our first Diwali when we were just newly married and living in Chennai. Wanting it to be extra special, I made Besan Laddo, Chakli and Gujiya (karanji), all for the first time, and apart from the chakli getting semi-burnt, the rest all came out fine!!  We decorated the house with lots of light and along with my sis-in-law and bro-in-law (who were also newly married), we burst lots of crackers and had a lot of fun. My sis-in-law’s name is also Manju.
Manju chechi (as I call her) had called us to her home for dinner and she made some amazing Dal kachori, Veg Biriyani, raita and Gulab jamuns that evening and it was just splendid. I remember all this just like it happened yesterday…Nostalgia is a weird thing! :-)

After that our next Diwali’s have all been here at Minneapolis and it has been fun every year. We usually go to the temple and burst crackers there and then have a grand potluck dinner at our friend’s place followed by more bursting of crackers. It’s a festival we eagerly wait for each year. We have been lucky to have friend’s whom we can proudly call next to family and we don’t miss a chance to celebrate any festival.


Last year I made some Ring Murukku and Chakli along with some fusion sweets like Gajar Halwa and turned some of it into Carrot Halwa filled Chocolates and Spiced Mango burfi
I will share the ring murukku recipe soon as well. Apparently it has taken my lazy bones a whole year to share this with you :) I’m yet to decide what to make this year…Lol!

I love crunchy snacks and chakli (murukku) is my favorite of them all. My mom’s elder sister, my velliammachi, used to make the most awesome chakli’s I’ve ever eaten. Infact these don’t come quite close to how she used to make them, but for my first try it came out very decent I should say and they are made with whole wheat flour. 
Well apart from the frying in oil, you can say it’s a bit healthy :-P 

Whole-wheat Chakli / Whole-wheat Murukku
Makes : approx 12-20 chakli depending on size
  

You'll Need
1 cup Wheat flour             
¾ tsp Red chilli powder               
1 ½ tsp Jeera/ ajwain               
1/8 tsp  Asafoetida         
1 tsp hot oil
Salt - as needed
Room temp water - as needed to form the dough
Oil - For deep frying

 Directions
1.  Place the atta powder in a clean white muslin cloth and tie it up like a pouch. Using a steamer or idli vessel , steam cook atta. Cover and Steam cook for 15 mins to 20 mins.


2.  Untie and when it is warm enough to handle, break it roughly and sieve it into another bowl and break any bigger pieces with hands.



3.  Heat oil in kadai, meanwhile you prepare the dough. Add red chilli powder, asafoetida, salt and jeera and a tsp of hot oil and Make dough with water. It should be a stiff yet smooth and non sticky dough. 


I used the star shaped hole plate to make these chakli.


4. Press the dough using the pressing gun and form into a concentric circle shape or coil shape. I pressed in onto my silicon mat (you can use an oiled plate or wax paper to shape the dough onto)



5. Make sure the oil is hot enough and Using a spatula transfer each chakli into the hot oil and deep fry both sides until crisp and golden brown. 
Drain over a paper towel and store in an air-tight container.



Notes:
1.  Never let oil fume at any point, regulate the heat now and then
2.  Make sure water doesn't enter the wheat powder while steaming and once steamed the whole-wheat flour (atta) should look dry and devoid of moisture.

Recipe Source: Rak's Kitchen


Have a fun and safe Diwali!

-Manju

Oct 15, 2014

Chocolate cupcakes with Buttercream Roses to celebrate 3 years of blogging!


Hello to all. It's been since we all met hasn't it? :-) We went for a much needed, month long vacation to Kerala and let me say....we had enormous fun. Our vacation started with a lovely Onam celebration with our whole family. A House boat trip in the back waters of Allepy and a dream visit to Delhi were some of the other highlights of our trip and yes, we saw the Taj Mahal. It's quite an experience I tell you, you have to see the Taj to know its glory. Another major event was a big pooja that my Dad was sponsoring for our home temple - Sarpa Kaavu. An ancient folk dance event called Padayani was performed throughout the night and the entire village came to see it. The program was a huge success and was aired on several TV channels. And best of all our lil'Appu had the best time of all, playing care-free along with his niece lil'Akku to share all the fun, play and kid fights with. In all it was a superb vacation and we are still in hangover mode ;-)

Anyways, it's time to get off my blog-slumber. Today is a special day and the reason why I'm still here. It's our little blog's 3rd b'day. Now that I think of it, my blog and my baby boy are of the same age now ;-) I'm not going to say too much about how much I love blogging and what it means to me....the fact that I'm still here after 3 years says it all.  
If I have you all with me I'll be here sharing more recipes and all kinds of baking joys from my kitchen to yours and your feedback and comments are what keeps me going. 

So Happy 3rd Birthday dear MED :-) 



I love Chocolate Cake and I wanted to try out a really rich and moist chocolate cake. This recipe is perfect in all ways. It's rich, moist and very chocolaty and there's a secret ingredient.....Coffee! Yes, a little coffee adds a huge burst of flavor in this cake. Along with cocoa powder, it also uses fresh bittersweet chocolate, which again adds to it's richness! Yumm! 

It bakes up perfectly and literally perfumes your house with the most amazing chocolaty aroma :-) 



After baking up these beauties I was very much intrigued to try making some buttercream roses, which I've wanted to try for a long time now. So I made a batch of my favorite Vanilla buttercream and tinted them pink and yellow and little bit green for the leaves.

I also tried a dual color tone for the petals which also came out pretty decently. Initially my petals weren't forming properly, but as I continued they started forming and getting in shape. Some of the petals even got a ruffled edge, making it look like a slightly weathered petal. I loved that look. 

I did not get a chance to take any video or step-wise pics while making the roses, mayb next time...but you can find several videos on youtube for this technique.



I'm only sharing the recipe for the Chocolate cupackes here. Both Chocolate and Vanilla buttecream goes very well with these cupcakes. You can find the buttercream recipes here . 


Rich Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
This recipe makes:
24 standard-size cupcakes or
50 mini cupcakes or
Two 8" cakes

You'll need:
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
⅓ cup Cocoa powder
¾ cup hot Coffee
¾ cup All-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated Sugar
½ teaspoon Baking Soda
6 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 Eggs
2 teaspoons White Vinegar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Directions:
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard-size cupcake pan/ mini cupcake pan with liners. Place the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Pour the hot coffee over the mixture and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate mixture for 20 minutes.
2. Whisk together the flour, sugar and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside.
3. Whisk the vegetable oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla extract into the cooled chocolate mixture until smooth. Add the flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
4. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake pan cups.
If making cupcakes, bake for 9mins and turn over the pan halfway and bake for another 9 mins (total of 18-20mins)
If making mini cupcakes , bake for 5 mins one side and turn pan halfway for another 5 mins (total of 10-12 mins)
5. Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pan and place on the wire rack to cool completely for about 1 hour.

                                     *****************************************

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Makes 3 cups
You’ll need
Unsalted Butter , at room temp – 1 cup (that’s  2sticks or ½ pound)
Powdered sugar or Confectioners’ sugar (sifted) – 3 or 4 cups
Pure Vanilla Extract – 1 tblsp
Milk or heavy cream – 4 tblsp or as needed
Salt – a pinch (optional)
Directions
1.Beat butter until smooth and creamy using a paddle attachment on medium speed if using KitchenAid mixer or using electric hand blender.
2. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar , little at a time on low speed, until it mixes well with the butter.
3. Increase the speed to medium and add Vanilla extract, salt (if using) and 4 tblsp of milk/heavy cream. Combine well for few minutes until smooth and creamy. 
(If you want a thicker frosting add remaining 1 cup sugar. If you want a thinner consistency add more milk 1 tblsp at a time )

                                       *****************************************

For the Buttercream Roses:
Prepare Vanilla Buttercream and divide them to color into desired colors using food grade gel colors. Make sure the buttercream is of a smooth yet stiff consistency to hold it's shape. 
Add the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with Wilton's Rose Piping tip # 125 and make the swirls.  For a final touch add some leaves using a leaf tip.
(You can make the roses on a nail ring or directly pipe the buttercream roses onto the cupcakes)
Refrigerate each cupcake after the roses are placed on top to help them stay in shape.

Recipe Source: adapted from Cooks Illustrated



I shared these with some friends and colleagues and they all loved it.  But best of all my lil'Appu loved them the most. He wanted all the roses and the mini cupcakes were just the right size for him to enjoy! It's so much fun baking for family and friends :-)

-Manju